New Delhi (CNN)An American Christian believed to have been engaged in missionary work appears to have been killed by tribespeople from one of the world's most isolated communities, on a remote island hundreds of miles off the coast of India, according to officials.
North Sentinel Island tribespeople believed to have killed trespassing US 'missionary'
The 27-year-old American, identified as John Allen Chau, came to India on a tourist visa but came to the Andaman and Nicobar islands in October with the express purpose of proselytizing, Dependra Pathak, director general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told CNN.
"We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island," Pathak said.
Chau did not inform the police of his intentions to travel to the island to attempt to convert its inhabitants, officials said.
The adventurer's relatives, in a post on his Instagram page, said Wednesday that Chau was a beloved family member. "To others he was a Christian missionary, a wilderness EMT, an international soccer coach, and a mountaineer. He loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people." The family said it forgives those who took Chau's life.
The island, North Sentinel Island, is inhabited by the Sentinelese, who are protected under Indian law. Just more than a dozen people are officially thought to live on the remote island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.
The island is a protected area, and people are not allowed to go within 5 nautical miles of it, after previous incidents of aggressive behavior toward outsiders were observed. In 2006, two local fishermen were killed by the tribes.
Pathak said the American missionary had asked one of his local friends, an electronic engineer, to arrange a boat and find some fishermen who could take him to the island. The contact found a boat and the fishermen, along with a water sports expert, to help with the expedition.
All seven locals who facilitated the trip have been arrested.
"According to the fishermen, they used a wooden boat fitted with motors to travel to the island on November 15," Pathak said.
"The boat stopped 500-700 meters (1,640 - 2,300 feet) away from the island and (the American missionary) used a canoe to reach the shore of the island. He came back later that day with arrow injuries. On the 16th, the (tribespeople) broke his canoe.